Erkenntnis 80 (5):895-922 (2015)
AbstractThis paper discusses the role that appeals to theoretical simplicity have played in the debate between nativists and empiricists in cognitive science. Both sides have been keen to make use of such appeals in defence of their respective positions about the structure and ontogeny of the human mind. Focusing on the standard simplicity argument employed by empiricist-minded philosophers and cognitive scientists—what I call “the argument for minimal innateness”—I identify various problems with such arguments—in particular, the apparent arbitrariness of the relevant notions of simplicity at work. I then argue that simplicity ought not be seen as a theoretical desideratum in its own right, but rather as a stand-in for other desirable features of theories. In this deflationary vein, I argue that the best way of interpreting the argument for minimal innateness is to view it as an indirect appeal to various potential biological constraints on the amount of innate structure that can wired into the human mind. I then consider how nativists may respond to this biologized version of the argument, and discuss the role that similar biological concerns have played in recent nativist theorizing in the Minimalist Programme in generative linguistics
Similar books and articles
In defense of nativism.Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (2):693-718.
Innateness and moral psychology.Shaun Nichols - 2005 - In Peter Carruthers, Stephen Laurence & Stephen Stich (eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents. New York: Oxford University Press New York. pp. 353--369.
Kelly on Ockham’s Razor and Truth-Finding Efficiency.Simon Fitzpatrick - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):298-309.
Ockham’s New Razor: A Model-Theoretical Approach to Shrink the Size of Unwanted Ontology.Wen-Fang Wang - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 17:149-161.
Ockham Efficiency Theorem for Stochastic Empirical Methods.Kevin T. Kelly & Conor Mayo-Wilson - 2010 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 39 (6):679-712.
Ockham's Razor and Chemistry.Roald Hoffmann, Vladimir I. Minkin & Barry K. Carpenter - 1997 - Hyle 3 (1):3 - 28.
Locke’s Essay, Book I: The Question-Begging Status of the Anti-Nativist Arguments.Raffaella De Rosa - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1):37-64.
The poverty of the stimulus argument.Stephen Laurence & Eric Margolis - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (2):217-276.
The Other Edge of Ockham’s Razor: The A-PR Hypothesis and the Origin of Mind. [REVIEW]Zann Gill - 2013 - Biosemiotics 6 (3):403-419.
Simplicity in the Best Systems Account of Laws of Nature.James Woodward - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):91-123.
Simple or Simplistic? Scientists' Views on Occam's Razor.Hauke Riesch - 2010 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 25 (1):75-90.
Added to PP
Historical graph of downloads
Citations of this work
No citations found.
References found in this work
Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis.Jesse J. Prinz - 2002 - MIT Press.